Resolution is Goal of Home Preservation Workshop

Gale Horton Gay | 9/18/2012, 7:23 p.m.

The tears flowing from Karina Leake's eyes pretty much told the story. She finally got her mortgage loan modified.

Leake couldn't help but cry last week while attending Wells Fargo's Home Preservation Workshop on September 13 at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover. That's when two hours into her session with an underwriter she learned that she qualified for a loan modification and her mortgage payment would be reduced by $530 a month.

"I can realistically budget now," said Leake. "Going forward, I will be able to make the payments. Everything will be fine."

Leake counted among more than 400 homeowners who attended the workshop with hopes of bringing their mortgage challenges to a positive resolution.

The event was staffed with 100 Wells Fargo personnel from around the country including 50 underwriters knowledgeable about mortgage assistance programs through Wells Fargo and other lending institutions. The workshop included representatives from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Home Free USA, HOPE and other organizations.

"Although less than 2 percent of homeowner-occupied loans in our servicing portfolio have resulted in foreclosure sale over the past year, we understand that some of our customers are going through difficult times during this economic recovery," said Marie Day, Wells Fargo home mortgage regional servicing director. "Our goal with this workshop is to help as many people as possible preserve homeownership."

Day said that Wells Fargo "aggressively" reached out to local customers in arrears on their mortgages, and encouraged them to attend. Most - 396 - had pre-registered and submitted paperwork. However, walk-ins also received counseling.

As the event unfolded, Day predicted that 25 percent of those attending would leave with an option that "doesn't include foreclosure."

Day said the workshops operate on a "single point of contact" model, meaning customers are assigned a Wells Fargo representative who will serve as their primary contact throughout the process - including what transpires after they leave the workshop.

Wells Fargo has been holding these workshops across the country since 2009. Officials said the event in Landover was their 74th and they have made 800,000 mortgage loan modifications during that time.

A mother of four, Leake, 31, who lives in White Plains, Md., said her troubles began five years ago when she was on maternity leave from her job. She encountered health problems as did her newborn which resulted in her being away from work longer than originally planned. She fell behind in paying her mortgage.

"It's been a struggle," said Leake.

She said she has been trying to get her loan modified during the past year and had received different responses.

Roland Luna, the Wells Fargo underwriter who assisted Leake at the event, said sometimes having face-to-face contact with a representative makes all the difference. He said homeowners can often better explain details of their situation in person and there's less likelihood of misunderstandings.

Leake offered the following advice for persons facing foreclosure. "Don't just sit around and not do anything about it. You can't hide from it," she said.

For more information on Wells Fargo's mortgage assistance programs, visit www.wellsfargo.com/homeassist or call 800-678-7986.